Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can the self-destruction of the newspaper industry be stopped before it’s too late?

The past few days in the newspaper industry have been a long time coming. The easy explanation for the announced reduction in daily editions in New Orleans, Alabama, and Canada would be to blame the internet. This is only a bit true. The downward spiral of newspapers began years, even decades, ago. They just got greedy.

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This is Sunday’s edition of The Tennessean side by side with the August 9, 1945 edition of the defunct Nashville Banner. The first thing that grabs me is that the Banner page is almost twice as large as the one from The Tennessean. The second thing that grabs me is how the front page of The Tennessean is full of white space and filler. The graphic above the masthead takes up nearly one-fourth of the whole page!

The Banner is full of actual news. In fact, it overflows with news – hence the name NEWSPAPER!
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The actual news started disappearing from the pages of the newspaper in the 70’s. The newspapers themselves made the decisions to shrink pages and publish less actual news because they felt invincible and wanted to increase profits. There was no internet – it’s not like we could go somewhere else for content. They provided less but we kept paying the subscription bill every month because it was a routine. So, they basically “trained” all of us to look elsewhere for the news and by the time the internet came along, our reliance on newspapers was already waning.

There is no value for me in the “metro” newspaper of today. I only buy the Sunday edition at the store. I would subscribe but the paper won’t redeliver if they miss you and they miss a lot. Since most companies are only concerned about value to their shareholders so they are going to get as profitable as possible at whatever cost it takes, what I see as value really doesn’t matter to them. That’s why we’ll see more newspapers getting rid of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It’s a vicious cycle and there is no stopping it.

Oddly, newspapers create much more bang for the buck for local advertisers than the internet does. The internet is great if you are Coca-Cola and you can have ads popping up all over. It’s not as good for the local plumber or the hair salon. Local companies get lost in the sea of information and rapid-fire mouse clicks. It’s just about impossible to target the right people on the internet when you are a local business. This is why local papers are doing somewhat better than metro or statewide papers.

Check out sports from last Sunday compared to August 9, 1945:
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There is probably more content in one page from 1945 than in the entire sports section now.
I can breeze through the Sunday paper in 20 minutes. I bet it took all day of going back and forth to get through it in 1945. That’s value.

If newspapers want to be around in 20 years, they need to take some $$ from the shareholders and put them back in the paper. Get some reporters. Fill the paper with content. Quit looking at the internet as a competitor. Also, don’t give all of the content away free on the internet but use the internet as a tool.

Embrace citizen journalism to cover the holes in your reporting staff. . Put summaries online teasing about the DETAIL that will be in the paper tomorrow. Get in depth. Investigate some things. Get a little controversial once in a while. Grab all of the funny stories off the police blotter and fill up a whole section of that. GET LOCAL. Cover all of the stories that failures like Patch and Examiner can’t cover.

Also, with all of this technology, why are the graphics from today’s paper so boring and stale? Fred Russell’s logo is better than anything in our paper today. Our columnists just look blah when the presentation should make them look like stars.
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Newspapers don’t have to be over. People want to read. People love the feel of newsprint. People want to sit in the crapper or on the bus or out on the deck reading from something that doesn’t have to be charged or can’t be read in direct sunlight. And, people would like to read all of the stories they have to get across multiple internet sites today all in one place.

Finally, I work in front of a computer so I love my time away from the computer. A newspaper does that. It’s a break. There are no instant message popups. There are no email notifications. It’s an escape. We just need someone to provide that escape correctly. Someone, somewhere, is going to fix newspapers – I hope. And, the best way to do it is to look back at the 40’s and 50’s.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Magnavox D8443 Power Player

This monster is so big that it takes up most of the kitchen table.
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It is a Magnavox D8443 Power Player. My father-in-law rescued it from the surplus pile at his school this week. Other than being gigantic, it has another surprise – it is also a shortwave radio covering 2.3 to 21.7 megahertz.
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That’s right – it’s a boom box from the early 80’s that covers most of the shortwave band and does it quite well. The radio has fantastic shortwave reception – it’s as good as my Eton G5 and, thanks to the huge speakers, sounds much better. AM reception is also fantastic. Surprisingly, FM is just average. This is not an FM DX machine as only the local stations come in. I’m actually a bit surprised, considering that the AM and Shortwave band reception is above average on this radio.

It still needs more cleaning. The volume knob is really scratchy and not connecting well at all. There are quite a few knobs to clean on this radio so it’s going to take a little time.
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Of course, after almost 30 years in service at the school library, it’s not in perfect shape. The hydraulic cassette tape eject no longer works so you have to press eject and pry open the door with a screwdriver.
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The antenna was snapped off so I had to buy a replacement at Radio Shack and ended up stripping the screw in the process (ugh!). There are also lots of little dings and scratches.

But, it’s cool – like really early 80’s Miami Vice cool. I can only imagine how much this thing cost new. I did have a Magnavox radio growing up but it was a one speaker (mono) model that was much, much, much smaller.
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This radio is a winner and I expect even better results once all of the knobs are cleaned up. If I ever decide to go into breakdancing as a career, this will be my go-to radio.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

We Are Still Married

(My apologies to Garrison Keillor fans as this entry has nothing to do with his book though it did inspire the title.)
As of this very afternoon, I have been married sixteen years to a woman who apparently has the patience of a saint. I have never awoke to find her hovering over me about to cover my snoring mouth with a pillow. I have no evidence that she ever attempted to drain the brake fluid from my car. These things amaze me.


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They amaze me for many reasons but first and foremost because were not old enough or wise enough to realize how difficult marriage would be. It took about 25 minutes to complete the ceremony and about five years to figure out how to truly be married. The “up times” were good but the “down times” were valleys. I’m still not sure how we made it through it all.

I was a pain – difficult at times, selfish at times. I came with enough baggage to fill the trunk of a taxi cab.
My expectations were unrealistic. My sneezes are very loud. I only like the toilet paper to come off underneath the roll. 

I’m certain that living with me was mind-bogglingly frustrating. But, there was something that kept telling me that I needed to hold on to this particular person. At least I was right about that.

So, here we are, sixteen years in and we have raised two children who, so far, are well-adjusted, extremely intelligent and don’t appear to have inherited any of my quirks or my lousy eyesight. We have a nice enough house, a full refrigerator and we can pay the mortgage and the car note every month. What more can you ask for?

I am blessed by this love, probably don’t deserve this love, and probably don’t say how grateful I am for it nearly enough.

I am.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why I’m watching America’s Got Talent

Who would have thought it? I am actually choosing to watch America’s Got Talent this year.

The kids have always enjoyed all of the acts so it’s been on in our house just about every summer but I typically zoned out. That’s changed now with the addition of Howard Stern.
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Who would have thought it? Howard Stern is the final piece of the America’s Got Talent Puzzle. I did not like David Hasselhoff. I did not like Piers Morgan. Howard Stern is the perfect fit with Sharon Osbourne, Howie Mandel, and Nick Cannon.

Why is that? You need to throw out every misconception you might have about Howard Stern. Instead of filling in the grouchy role of Piers Morgan or a mean jock shock shell of a person, Howard Stern is incredibly supportive and seems genuinely excited not only to be part of the show but also, and most importantly, for the individual acts. I think he brings an energy to the rest of the show that everyone is feeding off of.

What you end up with is fun. If the act is awful, Howard Stern might pull his dad out of the audience to tell that person to stop being an idiot. If the act is great, all 4 of them applaud and overwhelm the act with praise. Everyone calls Howard Stern the shock jock when the real shock is that he has made America’s Got Talent must see TV by bring heart and not barbs.

Finally, there is a reality talent show with no grouch – no naysayer – no insulter.

That’s the secret of Stern – his over the top, shock ‘em into listening persona has mellowed out and he’s risen above all of the stunts and gimmicks that have been what he was known for even though most of it happened almost 30 years ago now. People who have seen him on Letterman for years have seen the real deal and I, for one, am happy that mainstream America is getting to see the real deal now also.

Sure, America’s Got Talent is mostly just throw away entertainment but I’ll be watching. It’s a diversion from all of the bad crap going on in the world and I think it’s exactly what we need right now.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Robin Gibb

We lose Donna Summer last week and start this week losing Robin Gibb. It’s weird to think that disco music is so old now that we are losing the disco stars. However, Robin Gibb and the Bee Gees were a lot more than a disco act.

Here are a few of my favorite Bee Gees songs.  It wasn’t until the late 80’s during my Simon & Garfunkel phase that I bought the Bee Gees Gold cassette at Tower Records and got into some of their older, non-disco music. It was around this same time that the Bee Gees also had new music on the radio.
Below, from Bee Gees Gold, is Massachusetts (My favorite Bee Gees song) and I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You. Below that is Alone from 1997 and One from 1989.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stormy Saturday

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This is what happens when I wash the car. An alarm must go off somewhere in the atmosphere which triggers three inches of rain, hail, and 65 mph wind.

The best part is that I was out in the one car left that didn’t have hail dings all over it. I guess it was feeling left out.

So, the cars were clean for about an hour. In other news, I made my weekly trip to Walmart and only spent $79. I don’t know how they will get by. I am getting more and more disappointed in my trips to Walmart. Today I bought the only suction cup mirror they sell for the shower, came home and opened the package to find a scratch all the way across it. The quality control they have in place is FANTASTIC. I keep thinking more and more of buying all of my stuff at other places but there is no other place in town with one stop shopping and I’m just too lazy to go to two (or three depending on the sales) places.

Let’s see – what else happened today? My tongue stiches vanished so I am one step closer to talking normally again.

I’ve got nothing else to report. Over and out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Guide to Buying Store or Off Brands vs. Name Brands

Yesterday, I gave you my opinion on vacuums so I thought I might as well keep the excitement going and give you my thoughts on Brand Name Products versus Store or Off Brands.

I speak from much experience. I shop at the Walmart just about every week.
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There are four people in this house plus two dogs so we go through a lot of stuff. We also clip coupons though we are not coupon crazy people with huge binders that buy five to ten papers a week. I have a life and I am already flying through middle age too fast to waste time doing all of that.

Things You Should NEVER Buy Store or Off Brands Of:
  • Window cleaners – you might as well just throw some blue food dye in water and use that because it would probably work just as well
  • Just about any other cleaning supply – I’ve never had an off brand cleaner work as good as a store brand. They are ALL watered down.
  • Anything dental – toothpaste, mouthwash, you name it. Don’t do it. Walmart was out of Johnson & Johnson Reach Floss a few weeks back so I bought the store brand – Equate. It was like flossing with fishing line. It was way too thin and slippery and only 10 cents less. (Actually, I think that Walmart purposely runs out of name brands at times to see if we will try the store brand.) Well, these are your teeth, for goodness sake, and you shouldn’t skimp on them because they don’t grow back!
  • Coca-Cola – Store brand Coca-Cola just tastes flat. Yuck.
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  • Batteries – Any cheap battery is a cheap battery. Have fun changing them out 3 times faster than Energizer. Was it worth the $1.50 you saved?
  • Q-Tips – Oh, crap – I bought the store brand of Q-Tips once and it was like sticking a piece of fuzz glued onto a toothpick in my ear. I was afraid it was going to break and pierce my eardrum and then my brain.
  • Dog Food – Your dog should bite you if you’re buying that crap.
  • Cat Food – Your cat probably already claws you randomly and you didn’t know why. Now you do.
  • Bandages – Store brand and off brand Band Aids don’t stick right. If they even see water, they peel off. Also, they feel like they were made out of the same material the seats in my ‘82 VW Rabbit were made of. It’s hard to heal when I’m scratching at an itchy bandage all day. What really stinks is that the generic ones are in first aid kits in every warehouse in America. Thank goodness that there is nothing that can injure you in any of those places.
  • Electronics (except for TV’s) – There are still crappy Chinese brands out there. Just remember, what ever you plug in might burn down the house. Whatever has batteries in it might overheat one day and burn down the house. Brands like Coby and Memorex (it’s not the Memorex you remember from when you were a kid) are notorious for only lasting as long as the warranty is in effect and that is mostly 90 days.
  • Lamps – It’s hard to find a good lamp. It’s also hard to find a brand name lamp. As a rule of thumb, don’t go cheaper than $20 for a desk lamp and $40 for a floor lamp. Apply my electronics rule here about how you might burn down the house.
  • Cereal – you might as well just eat the box because the box probably tastes just as good and is made of the same material.
  • Toilet Paper – what are you, some kind of sadist? If you can sand wood with it, you probably don’t need it touching your unmentionables.
  • Greeting Cards – Regardless of what you think, people always turn over greeting cards and look at how much you spent on them.
Things You Can Get Away with Buying the Store Brand Of:
  • Diet Cola – It tastes so bad, you won’t notice either way
  • Orange Soda – OK, it burns a bit more because it has more carbonation but it’s also typically 69 cents for a two-liter vs. $1.29 for the good stuff. You’ll get fat either way, my friend. Might as well save money doing it.
  • Spaghetti / Pasta’s – I think all spaghetti (except for the natural stuff that I don’t buy anyway) comes from the same factory. They just slip it in a different box at the end of the line. Maybe the Great Value spaghetti is packed by cheaper, angrier, less-hygienic temps on third shift. You have to save money somewhere and their cooties will die off when you boil it.
  • Medicines – Tylenol has proven that being a major brand doesn’t come with a guarantee of anything even close to resembling quality control. The reason to pay more for the name just doesn’t apply in the medicine aisle anymore.
  • Shoes – applying the “don’t go cheaper than $25 a pair rule unless they are on clearance” rule, I’ve had good luck with off-brand shoes. Like spaghetti, they probably come from the same factory. They are just run on the third shift under dimmer lighting with slightly cheaper materials. However, dress shoes from discount stores typically suck.
  • Televisions – the same factory rule applies again. We have three Haier LCD tv’s and they are wonderful. They’ll probably catch on fire as soon as I post this but the pictures are just as good (maybe even better) than our living room Toshiba TV.
  • Wipes – these wipes are the companions to toilet paper. Equate Flushable Wipes are cheap and they get the job done. Hey, Mad Men – I’ve got a good motto for these wipes!       “They are #1 on #2!”
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  • Trash Bags – Great Value 30 gallon Drawstring Garbage Bags are just as good as anything else you are buying specifically to throw in the trash. They probably won’t hold a body. I haven’t tried – yet. Sadly, garbage bags are so expensive now that you don’t save much money going with the store brand.
  • Kitchen odds & ends – spices, flour, sugar, coffee sweeteners, non-stick spray, etc. I can’t tell the difference. Neither can the lab rats they tested all this stuff on.
The Toss-Ups (Are you feeling lucky? These are items that I have had just about an equal number of winners and losers with)
  • Shampoo – I find that store brand shampoos eventually make my hair greasy. It’s not 1955 so that look is no longer in.
  • Frozen meals – such as breakfast dinners. I no longer eat them due to the sodium.
  • Bread – Store brand bread is fine. It just goes stale faster. I have no idea how. Maybe it knows it’s cheap.
I think that just about covers it all. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My 3 year old Electrolux Versatility Vacuum Bites The Dust

Why would I write about something so boring as a vacuum? So other people don’t make the same mistake I did.
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Now you can buy this vacuum for $99 refurbished at Big Lots. Don’t do it. They probably have thousands of refurbished units since everyone is complaining about the same part dying on these vacuums – the brush roller. Check out Amazon for similar complaints.

Unfortunately, ours was full price and it dies 3 years and 4 months after purchase. I had a $40 Eureka that I bought as a Thanksgiving Day special that lasted me almost 8 years and was still running when I gave it to the thrift store. It’s probably still running today. Did it have the power of the Electrolux? No. But, it also didn’t clog up every 20 minutes either. I think I spent more time cleaning filters on this super heavy monster than I did actually using it. It’s been a nightmare. It’s also as loud as a jet engine plus the wheels started squeaking about a year ago. I can only compare the squeaking to someone running their fingernails like a chalkboard. I can imagine people in hell have to vacuum with this model vacuum for all eternity.

I have never had a vacuum give out in such a short amount of time. My parents had an old yellow metal Hoover canister that lasted at least 35 years.

The suction power had been dwindling over the last three or four months so I should have seen it coming.
Oh, well – my new Dyson is ordered and on the way. I will never buy Electrolux again.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bite your tongue!

I had my return visit to the doctor today for “the procedure”.

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Here’s the lowdown: sometime around Christmas, I apparently (I don’t remember) bit my tongue. 99% of these things heal back right. Mine did not. I ended up with scar tissue. So, this little bump protruded out and then I bit it again because it was sticking out a bit. It’s gone now after getting an injection, a snip, and some stiches.

It feels weird. It doesn’t really hurt – it just feels weird. And, the weird feeling makes me talk weird. It does get sore when I eat and the more sore it gets, the more weird talking gets. Things are supposed to be back to normal by Monday or Tuesday and I go back on Friday to have it checked and get the results of the biopsy though he feels pretty good that this is really nothing. I think it’s a “don’t sue us” deal.

So, I’m staying quieter than usual this weekend and everyone is pretty pleased about that.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saturday

We observed Mother’s Day a week early due to my upcoming Friday appointment with the doctor and the vocal rest that is supposed to follow. Lindsay and I took off to my hometown to see what kind of mischief we could get into.

We started with a trip to the mall to get cards and stuff. It sure has gotten dumpy and sort of dark so I didn’t take any pictures to commemorate that part of the trip. I did take pictures when we went to the Red Lobster.
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This is the Red Lobster that was my mother’s favorite place to take me way back when (starting back in the 70’s when even the mall was nice and new). We continued those trips up until about 6 or 7 years ago but she is no longer able to do those things with her health issues so we decided to get to-go food there and bring it to her as part of early Mother’s Day.

Of course, Lindsay and I had to eat there first. So many decisions:
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I think her main goal was to get dessert.
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Then we were off to see my parents. I drove the mighty Ford Contour and we did make it back in forth in one piece.
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After our visit, we headed to the park. We tried to grab this mallard but he/she (I didn’t get close enough to figure that part out) didn’t want us to get too close.
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There was some time to feed the ducks.
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And some time to ponder life in general.
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And then it was time for even more dessert because I am a sucker.
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And that was pretty much our Saturday. We drove back home and spent more time at our local park before going to yet another restaurant and buying yet another dessert. 3 desserts in one day and I wonder why my pants are so tight. Hmmmm.

Friday, May 4, 2012

MCA

For just a second, it was 1986 again every time I’ve heard the Beastie Boys over the years. We kept changing and they kept evolving. They took what might have seemed like a gimmick at first and turned it into an art. They embraced the changes (from cassettes to the internet) and kept coming back with new music and stayed popular. They kept connecting with not only those of us who have known them for their whole careers but also those who came after us. There are not a lot of things that have that staying power.

It’s hard for me to believe that Adam Yauch was 47. In one way, I’m surprised since he sounded frozen in his 20’s on every record since ‘86. In another way, I can’t believe we’re so close in age. That’s a bit scary and 47 seems way too young.